Vito's Ristorante, 7521 N May, is named after Cathy Cummings' Uncle Vito. An enormous black-and-white photograph of the man who inspired the name hangs on the wall, flanked by other framed family photos. Family and food were synonymous in Cummings' upbringing, and she's applied that dynamic to her career and her own family. Her mother and both her aunts grew up supported by a grocery store in Kansas City. That store begat Italian restaurants for each of them at one point or another over 35 years. Cummings began working in the family business at age 10. She married chef Sean Cummings, with whom she moved to Oklahoma City in the early 1990s. "We opened Boca Boca together," she said. "And I fired myself from there after three years. I kept trying to add Italian dishes to the menu, and Sean told me if I wanted to do that, I should open my own place. So I did." Six years later, Vito's is going strong with a staff that's been with her since the restaurant opened. Her three daughters, ages 15 to 22, all work at the restaurant — sometimes in the kitchen, sometimes out front. That sense of family inspires everything Cathy Cummings does. Every person who walks through the door is immediately treated as family, making repeat business common. Every dish on her menu is a family recipe. She bakes her own bread, makes all her own sauces and takes the time to make sure everything meets her standards. "What they're eating is what I would want to eat," Cummings said. And that's usually the case. The staff eats dinner together before service; Sean generally eats dinner before heading back over to his own restaurant, Sean Cummings Irish Pub. "It's a real comfortable environment," Cathy Cummings said. "I want people to feel like they are coming into my home when they come in here. Everyone just wants to feel good and wants some kind of camaraderie with each other. " The menu is organized in classic Italian style, with multiple courses and plenty of entrees you'll recognize including lasagna, ravioli, veal parmesan and chicken marsala. "Our chicken marsala is to die for," Cummings said. "Ours is a white sauce with fresh green and red peppers with lots of fresh vegetables." She also features lesser-known items such as cioppino, an incredible seafood stew loaded with fresh fish, shrimp and mussels. Relax, have a glass of wine — fuggitaboutit. Nothing to fear, Uncle Vito has your back, because once you enter the restaurant he's named for, you're part of the family. Vito's Ristorante Address: 7521 N May Ave. Phone: 848-4867. Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
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